Hezbollah Op Meant to Divert Attention From Recommendation to Indict Netanyahu, Opposition Whip Says

MK Yoel Hasson calls for convening Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on the operation, with Netanyahu in attendance

The Zionist Union's Knesset whip questioned the timing of the Israel Defense Forces' announcement Tuesday that it has launched an operation to destroy cross-border tunnels constructed by Hezbollah.

MK Yoel Hasson said the announcement is an attempt to divert attention from the police recommendations to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Hasson called to convene the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee urgently with Netanyahu in attendance.

Dubbing Operation Northern Shield as "the bulldozer operation," Hasson said it prompts doubts about its timing. "Presenting [Northern Shield] to the public as an offensive military operation to justify leaving [Education Minister Naftali] Bennett in the government and timing designed to obscure the police recommendations from the public cheapen the army and Israel's security interests, and show particular disregard for residents on the north," Hasson said.

He was referring to Bennett’s threat to pull his Habayit Hayehudi faction out of the government coalition last month if he was not named defense minister following the resignation of Avidgor Lieberman from the position.

For his part, Netanyahu, who since Lieberman's resignation is also serving as defense minister, said Northern Shield had shown "operational successes."

"Whoever tries to harm the State of Israel will pay a heavy price," he said in a statement and added that Israel "is operating decisively and responsibly on all fronts simultaneously. We will continue with further actions – public and clandestine – in order to safeguard the security of Israel." 

Operation Northern Shield, which began on Monday night, is planned to destroy Hezbollah's attack tunnels along the border between Israel and Lebanon. The tunnels have been found over the past several years and are part of a plan by the Shi'ite militia organization to attack northern Israel. Israeli defense officials believe the tunnels were designed to enable Hezbollah to launch a surprise attack and to infiltrate and even capture Israeli communities on the Israel side of the border.